Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Siddhartha and the River

          Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic traditions, this summer I'm doing independent reading into Buddhism in order to study how the faiths relate. 

"Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse is about a wealthy man who left home at a young age in search of answers. As the travels along his life journey he experiences many extremes and has many teachers, but it’s the lessons he learns from listening to the river 
while working alongside a boatman that finally offer him Peace.        
An excerpt:

          Siddhartha remained with the ferryman and learned to handle the boat, and when not occupied with the ferry, he worked with Vasudeva in the rice paddy, gathered wood, plucked the fruits of the plantain trees. He learned how to make an oar, how to repair the boat, how to weave baskets, and he was cheerful about everything he learned, and the days and months passed quickly. More though than Vasudeva could teach him, the river taught him. From it he learned ceaselessly. Above all he learned how to listen, to hearken with a quiet heart, with a soul that waited, open, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinion.
           He lived in friendship beside Vasudeva, and sometimes they would exchange words with each other, few and well considered words. Vasudeva was no friend of words, Siddhartha seldom succeeded in inducing him to speak.
          "Have you," he asked once, "have you also learned this secret from the river: that time does not exist?"
          A bright smile spread over Vasudeva's face.
          "Yes, Siddhartha," he said. "But do you not mean that the river is everywhere at once, at its origin and at its mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at the same time, and for it only the present exists, no shadow of the past, no shadow of the future?"
         "That is it," said Siddhartha. "And when I learned that, I took a look at my life and saw that it too was a river, and the boy Siddhartha was separated from the man Siddhartha and from the graybeard Siddhartha only by shadows, not by anything real. And there was no past for Siddhartha's earlier births, and his death and his return to Brahma are without future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has essence, is present."

My Copy of "Siddhartha" By Hermann Hesse
Photo By Donna Welles 06/26/12 

          Siddhartha spoke as one enraptured, this enlightenment brought him deep bliss. O, was not all suffering time, all self-torment and self-fear - time? All the world's difficulty, all the world's animosity, would they not be gone and conquered, once time was conquered, once it could be thought away? Enraptured he had spoken; Vasudeva, however, smiled radiantly at him and nodded in affirmation; silently he nodded, ran his hand over Siddhartha's shoulder, and turned back to his work.
         And once again, during the rainy season even as the river was swollen and roared mightily, Siddhartha spoke: "Is it not true, o Friend, the river has many voices, very many voices? Has it not the voice of a king, and of a warrior, and of a bull, and of a night bird, and of a woman giving birth, and of someone sighing, and still a thousand other voices?"
         "That is so," Vasudeva nodded, "all the voices of creation are in its voice."
          "And do you know," Siddhartha continued, "which word it speaks, when you succeed in hearing all its ten thousand voices at the same time?"
          Vasudeva's face laughed happily, he bent toward Siddhartha and spoke the holy Om into his ear. And this was just what Siddhartha, too, had heard.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Russia: Bloggers Honor Tupac Shakur

          Highly intelligent and socially aware, Tupac Shakur embodied the plight of contemporary African Americans who struggle against poverty and racism. Although his sudden and violent death in 1996 at the age of 25 stunned his generation, his life continues to be celebrated around the world. A number of RuNet bloggers, including LJ user papyrus-net, have honored him by sharing his story [ru] from beginning to end on the anniversary of his birth.

RuNet bio, my translation:
В 1971 году родился Тупак Шакур (англ. Tupac Amaru Shakur)(настоящее имя - Лесэйн Пэриш Крукс), американский рэпер, актер, продюсер. Имя Тупак он получил после крещения в честь последнего вождя инков Тупака Амару II (что в переводе означает Сияющий Змей), а фамилию Шакур получил от отчима — доктора Мутулу Шакура. В 14 лет Тупак поступил в Балтиморскую школу искусств, в которой проучился два года. Когда ему исполнилось 17 лет, он бросил школу и семью и уезхал в Мэрин Сити. В 1990 году проходит прослушивание в группу Digital Underground, в составе которой танцует и немного поет. Год спустя Тупака подписывают на звукозаписывающий лейбл Interscope, выходит его первый сольный альбом «2pacalypse Now». Еще через год Тупак переезжает в Лос-Анджелес, Калифорния, выпускает второй альбом – «Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.». В 1994 году он создает группу THUG LIFE - кроме самого Тупака в нее вошли его брат Mopreme «Komani» Shakur, Big Syke, Macadoshis и Rated R, и они выпустили первый альбом. Вскоре Тупака осуждают по обвинению в изнасиловании и заключают под стражу до вынесения окончательного приговора. 7 февраля 1995 года он был приговорен к лишению свободы на срок от 1,5 до 4,5 лет. Тупак Шакур вошел в историю как первый человек, который издал альбом, находясь в тюрьме – «Me Against the World» (Я против всего мира), получивший впоследствии мультиплатиновый статус. Выйдя в октябре 1995 года на свободу, после 10 месяцев тюрьмы, Тупак сразу же приступил к записи новых песен, и спустя всего пару месяцев он выпустил свое главное творение и одно из лучших в рэп-истории — двойной альбом «All Eyez On Me», получивший 9-кратный платиновый статус.7 сентября 1996 года в Лас-Вегасе машину, в которой ехал Тупак, расстреляли. После 6 дней в критическом состоянии, в пятницу 13 сентября 1996 года Тупак Шакур умер. На момент смерти ему было 25 лет. Убийство раскрыто не было.
In 1971 Tupac Shakur (born Tupac Amaru Shakur) (Real Name - Lesane Parish Crooks) - an American rapper, actor, and producer - was born. He was christened 'Tupac' in honor of an [Incan leader] - Tupac Amaru II , while his last name, Shakur came from his stepfather- Dr. Mutulu Shakur. At age 14,Tupac joined the Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied for 2 years. At 17, he left school and his family moved to Marin City, [California]. In 1990, he auditioned for the group Digital Underground, which involved dancing and some singing. The next year, Tupac signed to the record label 'Interscope', where he recorded his first solo album "2pacalypse Now". The next year, Tupac moved to Los Angeles, California he released his second album "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.". In 1994 he founded a group Thug Life - which, in addition to Tupac, included [several artists] and they released their first album. Soon Tupac was convicted of rape charges and was detained pending sentencing. On February 7, 1995 he was sentenced to a term of 1.5-4.5 years. Tupac Shakur is known in history to be the first person to [have a #1 album on the Billboard 200] while in prison - "Me Against the World", which later gained multi-platinum status. In October 1995, after [just under a year] in prison, Tupac immediately began to record new songs, and a few months later, he released perhaps one of the most significant works in rap history - a double album "All Eyes on Me", which received platinum status nine times over. On September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot while riding in a car in Las Vegas, [Nevada]. After 6 days in critical condition, on Friday, September 13 1996, Tupac Shakur died. At the time of his death he was 25 years old. The murder has not been solved.

Tupac Shakur (rapper), performing live Las Vegas September 1996. Source Wikimedia Commons 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Venial and Mortal Sins - Oscar Lukefahr, C.M.

As a supplement to my formal education in the Anglican tradition, last fall I completed all of the education required to be confirmed into the Catholic Church. 

One of the assigned texts was "We Believe…" - A Survey of the Catholic Faith by Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. I've transcribed his differentiation between venial and mortal sins below:
         When we choose evil, acting against our consciences, we commit what is called actual or personal sin. Sin begins in our own free will, as we choose to act in a way contrary to God's will. Sin may find expression in actions whether external, such as murder or theft, or internal, such as lustful thoughts, envy or hatred. Sin may find expression also in omissions when we fail to do what we ought, as when we neglect the poor or fail to worship God.
          Sin can exist in different degrees. We may be trying to follow Christ and direct our lives in accord with God's commandments so that our fundamental direction is toward God. But we can so something wrong or fail to do what is right because we are weak or selfish. If our failing is of such a nature that it does not sever our bond of love with God, it is known as venial sin. Examples of such sins might be carelessness of prayer, unkind words, and bouts of temper. These sins may be venial, but we should try to overcome them, for just as minor failings can damage our relationship with others, so venial sins can weaken our friendship with God and lead to more serious failings.
          Some sins are so serious that they reverse the course of our lives, turn us from God, and change our fundamental direction to sin and death. These are mortal sins, sins that are deadly because they cut us off from God's love. (Mortal sins are often referred to as grave or serious sins). Paul gives examples of such sins:

 "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) […]

My Copy of "We Believe" By Oscar Lukefahr
Photo By Donna Welles (06/16/12)

          It is not possible to establish precise guidelines that would determine in every case whether a sin is mortal or venial. Some sins are obviously mortal, such as murder and adultery, while others are obviously venial, such as little acts of disobedience by a small child. Others can leave doubt. It would be a venial sin for a child to steal a piece of candy from a store and (objectively, at least) and a mortal sin for a thief to steal a poor widow's life savings. But we cannot so easily determine degrees of guilt between these two extremes.
         Theologians explain that three conditions must be present for a mortal sin. First, there must be a serious matter, something that causes serious harm to others or ourselves or is a serious affront to God. Second, there must be sufficient reflection: the sinner must be fully aware of the wickedness of the action. Most small children do not have the mental capacity to comprehend the evil of sin and so could not commit a mortal sin. Adults who are mentally deficient or have had no opportunity to learn about right and wrong might also be incapable of mortal sin. Third, there must be a full consent of the will: the sinner must freely chose to do what is evil. A man forced to steal money because his child is being held hostage would not have true freedom. Some people can be so damaged emotionally by background or illness that they do not have the freedom or moral maturity necessary to commit mortal sin. But when all three conditions- serious matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will- are present, mortal sin exists.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Wisdom of Sirach" in Times of Distress

As a supplement to my formal education in the Anglican tradition, last fall I completed all of the education required to be confirmed into the Catholic faith. 

As I have become acquainted with the Catholicism, I've noticed that often priests encourage parishioners to read the 2nd Chapter of the Wisdom of Sirach in times of distress. Below I've transcribed Sirach Chapter 2 1-11:

Duties toward God

1 My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.
2 Be sincere of heart and steadfast , undisturbed in time of adversity.
3 Cling to him, forsake him not; thus your future will be great.
4 Accept whatever befalls you in crushing misfortune be patient;
5 For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.
6 Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him.

7 You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.
8 You who fear the Lord, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.
9 You who fear the Lord hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.
10 Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? Has anyone call upon Him and been rebuffed?
11 Compassionate and merciful is the Lord; he forgives sin, he saves in time of trouble. […]

A vowelized Hebrew translation of Ben Sira from the ancient translations into Greek and Syriac (Septuagint and Peshitta), accompanied by the Syriac text (in Hebrew letters) and a translation into modern German (also in Hebrew letters). Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Responsible Sexual Behavior and Marriage -Thich Nhat Hanh

Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic faiths, this summer I'm doing independent reading on Buddhism in an effort to study how Christianity and Buddhism relate. 

Thich Nhat Hanh - a Vietnamese Buddhist monk - examine sexual behavior and marriage in 
his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ": 
         Precepts in Buddhism and commandments in Judaism and Christianity are important jewels that we need to study and practice. They provide guidelines that can help us transform our suffering. Looking deeply at these precepts and commandments, we can learn the art of living in beauty. The Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism - reverence for life, generosity, responsible sexual behavior, speaking and listening deeply, and ingesting only wholesome substances- can contribute greatly to the happiness of the family and society. I have recently rephrased them to address the problems of our times:

The Oneness of Body and Mind

3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. 

So many individuals, children, couples, and families have been destroyed by sexual misconduct. To practice the Third Precept is to heal ourselves and heal our society. This is mindful living.
          The feeling of loneliness is universal. We believe in a naïve way that having a sexual relationship will make us feel less lonely. But without communication on the level of the heart and spirit, a sexual relationship will only widen the gap and harm us both. We know that violating this precept causes severe problems, but we still do not practice it seriously. Couples engage in infidelity; and jealously, anger, and despair are the result. When the children grow up, they repeat the same mistakes, yet the violation of this precept continues to be encouraged in magazines, TV shows, films, books, and so on. We constantly encounter themes that arouse sexual desire, often coupled with themes of violence. […]
          In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of the oneness of the body and mind. Whatever happens to the body also happens to the mind. The sanity of the body is the sanity of the mind; the violation of the body is the violation of the mind. A sexual relationship is an act of communion between the body and spirit. This is a very important encounter, not to be done in a casual manner. In our soul there are certain areas- memories, pain, secrets - that are private, that we would share only with the person we love and trust the most. We do not open our heart and show it to just anyone.

My Copy of "Living Buddha, Living Christ"
Photo by Donna Welles (06/13/2012)

          The same is true of our body. Our bodies have areas that we do not want anyone to touch or approach unless he or she is the one we respect, trust, and love the most. When we are approached casually or carelessly, with an attitude that is less than tender, we feel insulted in our body and soul. Someone who approaches us with respect, tenderness, and utmost care is offering us deep communication, deep communion. It is only in that case that we will not feel hurt, misused, or abused, even a little. This cannot be attained unless there is true love and commitment. Casual sex cannot be described as love. Love is deep, beautiful, and whole, integrating body and spirit. […]
          The phrase "long-term commitment" does not express the depth of love we feel for our partner, but we have to say something so people understand. A long-term commitment is only a beginning. We also need the support of friends and other people. That is why we have a wedding ceremony. Two families join together with other friends to witness the fact that the couple has come together to live. The priest and the marriage license are just symbols. What is important is that the commitment is witnessed by friends of both of the families. "Responsibility" is the key word. The Third precept should be practiced by everyone.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Steps Toward Compassion - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic faiths, this summer I'm doing independent reading on Buddhism in an effort to study how the faiths. 

In My Own Words - An Introduction to My Teachings and Philosophy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama examines the first steps toward compassion:

Dedication: This book is dedicated to all sentient beings that we may be free from suffering and to the great teachers of all traditions who teach us how.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 On Happiness:  

The First Steps Toward Compassion

          We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions, and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled. If, however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us-with no extra effort on their part!- and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind.
          So, for a start, it is useful to investigate whether or not anger is of value. Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence, and determination. Here, though, we must examine out mental state carefully. While it is true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind; we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So, the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others.

Front Cover of "In My Own Words" By His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Book checked out from the City of Austin Public Library.
Photo taken by Donna Welles 06/11/12

         It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy from which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as a sign of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: They are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful, and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness.
         So, when a problem arises, try to remain humble, maintain a sincere attitude, and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, other may try to take advantage of you, and if by remaining detached you only encourage unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand. This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill intent.
         You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion, and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts. Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate, and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits its target.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Patience and the Moscow Council of Foreign Ministers - Sam Welles (1948)

Last week I posted an excerpt from my grandpa's book, Profile of Europe (1948), which explained the purpose of the work - to illustrate to the West that war with the Soviet Union was avoidable if we were willing to be "patient, firm and above all consistent". 

In the excerpt below, my grandpa continues on to illustrate the 
value of patience in matters of foreign policy by citing the example of East-West negotiations 

Sam Welles wrote in 1948:

          I spent eight months of 1947, early March to late October, in Europe and the Middle East. My first ten weeks were in Russia. One episode before I started the trip was to me symbolic of the whole complicated Soviet-American relationship.
         Molotov, wishing to have the Council of Foreign Ministers meet in Moscow, promised that reporters could cover the session as fully and freely as they were then covering the autumn - 1946 meeting of CFM in New York. Two months after Molotov's promise, Russia limited the American reporters' group to twenty. After a violent argument, the State Department got the group raised to thirty-six - less than half the reporters who had arranged to go. The State Department arranged even this small concession only by cutting its own official delegation and by yielding some of its allotted Moscow office space to be used as bedrooms.
        This episode shows how Russia negotiates. Promise a principle (full press coverage) to get a specific (agreement to meet in Moscow). Once you have the specific clutched safe in your bosom, slash the principle to the least you could get away with (not full coverage, but only twenty U.S. reporters). If the other fellow not merely objects but fights long and hard, yield a little more of the principle you promised (thirty-six, instead of the far greater number who believing you made arrangements). Never yield all the original promise if you can avoid doing so, and yield a bit above minimum only if you get further specific concessions (a smaller U. S. delegation and less space for it).
        This explains why negotiations with Russia are slow. It also indicates that Russia does negotiate, in its way, and doubtless always will. The Russians know that Americans are impatient people. That encourages them to be slow. They know they can take advantage of American impatience to get this or that matter settled, even if not on the terms we would like. Yet there is seldom if ever a good reason why America should be in any greater hurry than Russia to settle any given issue. Just as long as we are patient, the talks will go on - and we can simultaneously use the time to get the non-Russian world back on its feet.

On Back of Book:

Sam Welles 
          Author of Profile of Europe is an associate editor of Time and one of its top foreign news writers. During the war he served for three years in the State Department and in our London Embassy, where he was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Winant.
          At Oxford University, on a Rhodes Scholarship after Princeton, he took an honors degree in modern history. Ever since 1935 has spent a considerable part of his time traveling over Europe. In one thirty-nine month period he logged more than 100,000 miles from Connemarra to Constantinople; and during the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow he walked more than 300 miles through that city and its suburbs. In the months that followed, he visited sixteen other countries, making his way across most of them by car. His equipment-including extra cans of gas, spare tires, tools, food and mountains of documents- would almost have outfitted a polar explorer.